Travel Companions helping people travel by rail

Date:

15 May 2024

People with visual impairments have been given more confidence to travel thanks to a new initiative by Transport for Wales.

Teams of Travel Companions have been employed at key stations including Cardiff Central, Chester, Swansea, Newport and Shrewsbury to help those with additional needs feel more confident when traveling.

In Swansea this month, members of Guide Dogs Cymru met with the Travel Companion team to understand how they the new roles would work.

Ken Skates, The Cabinet Secretary for North Wales and Transport said:

“This fantastic initiative provides additional support to people with a visual impairment. Just knowing there is help available can make all the difference.”

Andrea Gordon, External Affairs manager for Guide Dogs Cymru, said:

“Public transport is vital for people with sight loss to get out and about and live life as they choose. Getting a guide dog can open up a whole new world of independent travel but, when it comes to rail journeys, the owner may need extra assistance to access the station and locate their train. They may also need help or advice during the journey. We hope the Travel Companion scheme will help to make train travel a better experience for them.”

In Swansea Railway Station, a new office has been created at the front of the station where customers can come and speak to the team and get advice on booking tickets, reservations, assistance throughout the journey and information on disruption. The team are available from 8am to 8pm every day.

And while a significant amount of investment has taken place in recent years to make all trains on the Wales and Borders routes fully accessible, just 13% of disabled rail users surveyed said they can use the train with confidence and ease.

Swansea Travel Companion Suzanne Churchouse said the new roles were “incredibly rewarding”.

She said: “We’re all new to these roles so it’s been brilliant learning together and finding the best ways to help customers. It’s clear that every customer has their own individual needs and concerns when traveling and for us, giving them that confidence to travel is incredibly rewarding.

“It’s been brilliant working with Guide Dog owners to understand what they need when they plan a journey, things like making sure there is enough space for their dog to sit by them and being on the right part of the train are key.”

All travel companions have had sighted guide training with Guide Dogs too. The visit was arranged as part of TFW’s ‘Confident Traveller’ scheme, which aims to support people who may not use the train very often or who may require additional support when travelling.

Led by the community rail team, the scheme works with community support groups to help people gain the experience, knowledge and confidence to travel by train.

Further information can be obtained by contacting community@tfw.wales 

Passenger Assistance for your entire journey can be booked up to two hours before your journey is due to start via the following methods:

Calling our Assisted Travel team: 03330 050 501

Using our Next Generation Text service 18001 03330 050 501 (for people with hearing and speech difficulties) Online: https://tfw.wales/info-for/passengers/accessible-travel/booking-assistance 

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